McHenry, IL. – Bipartisan support is growing and sponsors are being added to a measure, introduced earlier this year by Senator Craig Wilcox, eliminating cost-of-living pay raises for Illinois lawmakers.
“The legislation was virtually ignored when I introduced it on February 14, but now that the spring session has concluded, the public is beginning to discover there are political and legal nuances about the budget process, along with past court decisions that could lead to legislators getting a pay raise of $1,800,” said Wilcox (R-McHenry). “My colleagues, who were uncomfortable with that part of the budget plan, are cosponsoring the legislation.”
Since the end of the spring session early Sunday morning, May 24, Republican Senators Jason Plummer, Sue Rezin, Steve McClure and Neil Anderson have signed on as chief cosponsors, while Democrat senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton and other Senate Democrats have expressed interest in cosponsoring Senate Bill 3607. SB3607 would end automatic pay increases, known as cost-of-living adjustments, for members of the General Assembly beginning after January 1, 2023.
“The legislation is simple and straight forward,” said Wilcox. “It isn’t a complicated issue, like it’s been for years such as, requiring the Senate and House chambers to pass a resolution rejecting pay raises that must contain the exact same language. There’s too much ambiguity in the law and too many games have been played in the past. Additionally, when the General Assembly acted in unison to reject pay raises, lawsuits were filed by former legislators, and the courts reinstated the pay raises. That all ends with Senate Bill 3607.”
Sen. Wilcox said while the state constitution allows changes to legislative salaries, it prohibits changes in the salaries during the term for which the lawmaker has been elected. The January 1, 2023 date was selected because, due to redistricting, all members of the General Assembly will be up for election in 2022.
“Everyone elected to office in 2022 and begins serving in 2023 starts fresh. That’s the appropriate time to begin this new state policy,” said Wilcox.
Wilcox said despite the pandemic-shortened spring session, lawmakers had time to consider SB3607.
“There were three full weeks of session prior to the legislative session being put on hold and plenty of time during the week after we returned to openly discuss the issue,” said Wilcox. “Considering the fact that about one million Illinoisans are out of work, and that families and small business owners have had to cut back, and do with less, the waning days of session would have been an appropriate time to discuss, debate and decide pay raises. It certainly would have demonstrated transparency and accountability, and leadership. Unfortunately, the measure was never allowed to be publicly debated this spring.”
Illinois legislators are among the highest paid in the country. With an annual base salary of almost $70,000, not counting extra pay for committee leadership and per diem payments for each day in session. Illinois senators and representatives receive the fifth-highest pay, according to the Capitol city’s State Journal-Register.